What is Chemoembolization?
Chemoembolization is a treatment option used to treat tumors of the liver that cannot be removed by surgery because of the number of tumors or their location. With this procedure, interventional radiologists are able to treat tumors that have originated in the liver or that have metastasized there from other locations (for example, from colon or breast cancer). The treatment is palliative as opposed to curative, but it can be effective in the treatment of liver cancers, in particular when it is used in combination with other therapies. Chemoembolization may be contraindicated and not appropriate for patients who have cirrhosis of the liver, blockage of the blood supply to the liver, or blockage of the bile ducts.
About the Treatment process
In the procedure, a thin catheter is inserted into the blood supply to the liver, and attacks the cancer in two ways. First, chemotherapy drugs are injected directly into the blood supply for the tumor. This allows the delivery of higher doses of the chemotherapy drugs than with systemic chemotherapy, allows the drugs more direct contact with the tumor, and thus more time in which to destroy the cancer cells. In a second attack, a blocking agent (embolic material) is used to block blood flow to the tumors and thus shrink them by depriving them of oxygen and nutrients.
Chemoembolization has several benefits. It has a more powerful effect than embolization alone or systemic chemotherapy alone, and allows the chemotherapy drugs longer and more direct contact with the tumor. At the same time, injection of the chemo drugs directly into the tumors lessens the total amount of them in the bloodstream and thus reduces side effects. The procedure can shrink existing tumors and prevent the growth of new tumors, while allowing a relatively normal quality of life. The treatment can be repeated, and can be used in conjunction with other therapies.